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Pavel KŘÍŽKOVSKÝ (1820-1885)
Rozchodná/Song of Parting (1850)
Utonulá/The drowned maiden (1860)*
Odvedeného prosba/The recruit’s prayer (1860)
Pastýř a poutníci/The shepherd and the pilgrims *#

Výpreak/Threshing (1860)
Leoš JANÁČEK (1854-1928)

Osudu neujdeš/You cannot escape your Fate (1878)
Na košatej jedli/Two doves in a fir tree (1878-80)
Klekánica/The Evening Witch (1900)
Osamělá bez těchy/Lonesome without solace (1898 revised 1925)

Veni sancta (1903)
Constitues (1903)+
Ave Maria (1884)
Tři mužské sbory/Three Male Choirs (1888)*
Pět národních písní/Five Folk Songs (1912)*+
Q VOX (Petr Julíček (tenor) Tomáš Badura (tenor baritone) Tomáš Krejčí (baritone) Aleš Procházka (bass) with

Vladimír Chmelo (baritone) *
Martin Jakubíček (harmonium) +

Pavla Bartoníková (harp)#
Petr Fiala (artistic supervisor)
Recorded in Brno, March-April 2004
ARCO DIVA UP 0068-2 231 [64.42]

Here’s a coupling both logical and exploratory. Křížkovský was a Moravian contemporary of Smetana but one who lived most of his life in the Augustinian monastery in Brno. And when Janáček lectured on mid-nineteenth century national music he praised his fellow Moravian as a pivotal figure. So it’s apposite that Q VOX, the Brno-based male voice quartet, chooses to collate the two not least because, though thirty-four years Křížkovský’s junior, the earliest of Janáček’s settings here date from 1878, only eighteen years after the older man’s settings presented in this disc.

Křížkovský’s settings are full of delicacy and refinement and they tap into the Moravian folk soil with keenness; the press and relaxation of the ballad Utonulá is mirrored in the great purity of Pastýř a poutníci (a Marian text not a folk song) where the consort singing has considerable finesse. More ebullient but still adhering to a mid nineteenth century ethos Výpreak points the way to the early Janáček choruses, where one finds a similar reserve, and it’s clear that the older man’s influence was strong. It was actually Janáček who replaced the Brno scion as organist at the Church School and we have some examples here of the younger man’s (rare) liturgical music.

A setting such as Osudu neujdeš adheres quite closely to formal models and the earlier settings, though they may have been revised (Osamělá bez těchy for example was written in 1898 but revised in 1925) still bear the imprint of newly established norms in Moravian folk setting. Even the noble simplicity of the liturgical Veni sancta and Ave Maria bring to mind Křížkovský’s Pastýř a poutníci. It’s not really until Tři mužské sbory (Three Male Choirs, 1888) and the later Pět národních písní (Five Folk Songs, 1912) that one feels a truly characteristic Janáček voice. The teeming voices in the last of the Three Male Choirs for instance with its inimitable cadences. Demands on the technique increase in the 1912 setting where the tenor is pushed very high and the overlapping lines create a dizzying complexity in the opening ballad. Here, whilst predominately slow, Janáček gives the opening lines to a low voice that is then joined by the others. He also writes for a harmonium, which is most apparent in the last of the set of five, A byl jeden zeman (And there was once a farmer) with its appositely rustic oompah accompaniment.

Q VOX (all capitals apparently) and their associates evoke these textures with great skill and tonal blend. They may be rather scary looking Moravians (the booklet picture scared the life out of me; they’re scarier looking than Wagnerian mezzos) but their accomplishment is palpable. Not all top-drawer Janáček, it must be said, though what we have is more than useful in examining an important strand of his compositional development. But without question intriguing, not least for the Křížkovský connection.

Jonathan Woolf

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